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Chloride is one of the most common anions found in tap water. It generally combines with calcium, magnesium, or sodium to form various salts: for example, sodium chloride (NaCl) is formed when chloride and sodium combine. Chloride occurs naturally in ground water, but is found in greater concentrations where seawater and run-off from road salts (salts used to de-ice icy roads) can make their way into water sources. As such, well owners near snowy roads or road salting storage facilities are especially at risk for high levels of sodium chloride.
Although chlorides are harmless at low levels, well water high in sodium chloride can damage plants if used for gardening or irrigation, and give drinking water an unpleasant taste. Over time, sodium chloride’s high corrosivity will also damage plumbing, appliances, and water heaters, causing toxic metals to leach into your water. Interestingly, there is no federally enforceable standard for chlorides in drinking water, though the EPA recommends levels no higher than 250 mg/L to avoid salty tastes and undesirable odors. At levels greater than this, sodium chloride can complicate existing heart problems and contribute to high blood pressure when ingested in excess.
The good news is that chlorides can easily be removed from water with either a reverse osmosis system or a distiller.